In a world of 7 Billion, 3.5 Billion people’s wealth is equivalent to the combined wealth of the world’s richest 85 people. The richest 1 % of the world has USD 110 Trillion, almost 50% of the world’s total wealth. To give this even more perspective, the top 1% has wealth equivalent to 65 times the wealth of the poorest half of the world. This is according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 report titled, Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014. This concentration of income and wealth threatens democracy, economic stability whilst compounding other inequalities. Erosion of democracy rips the fabric of social cohesion and gives rise to rampant inequality. The Inequality that stems from this vacuum of power threatens economic and social stability within countries.
Wealth concentrated in the hands of a few is not democracy. Wealth begets wealth and once the political and institutional system is rigged in favour of an elite, the consolidation of their privileges cascades through different mechanisms. Political institutions are undermined and overwhelmingly serve the wealthy elites to the detriment of the masses. Who funds the candidates that we vote for? Who gets propelled in the limelight for all to see? Whose message gets out there, and repeatedly so? In essence, the wealthy elite choose who we are allowed to vote for, so regardless of the one we cast our ballots for, they win. Can an ordinary, honest man with the will to change the system of things acquire the resources necessary to convince the people of a nation to vote for him? The answer is clearly no. Is that democracy? As one individual who happens to be a Rasta-Farian, African, male, from Linden, Guyana said to me in an interview, “I don’t vote because there is never a worthy candidate for me to vote for. Other people choose who we can vote for and the rich man will never let a man with the virtues to lead the masses out of this new system of slavery become a popular candidate. Any man who tries to change the status quo gets assassinated, just look at Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King Jr. Something big has to happen if we are to evolve and break free from this façade of democracy.
Concentration of income and wealth causes a greater income gap and rising inequalities. The unbalanced distribution of wealth skews institutions and erodes the social contract between citizens and the state. The rich are either the policy makers or have the power to influence the policy makers. This becomes an inherent vacuum of power as time goes by, wealth increases and power is handed down through generations. It culminates into opportunity hoarding whereby select groups control valuable resources, such as access to government expenditure in contract selection, access to educational opportunities, lucrative job opportunities, access to justice through representation, access to quality medical services, etc. The bargaining power of labour unions becomes weakened. The real value of minimum wage is eroded. Protective labour laws are reduced to nothing. Workers benefits are dismissed. Soon enough, basic human rights will be shortchanged. People will no longer have a right to food, clothing and shelter but rather a right to whatever refuge the elite permits.
Economic and social stability becomes a notion of the past. Vast amounts of wealth are hidden from view and are largely untaxed, denying national treasuries vital resources that could benefit society. Corporate and top income tax rates, loop holes, poor or non-existent regulatory legislation, weak or non-existent oversight bodies are but the top of the pyramid. Average income individuals pay higher rates than higher income individuals. This creates an infinite (unless stopped) vortex of the poor being drained a more significant portion of their already meager wealth whilst the rich pay substantially less. This is the basic premise of driving the poor into the depths of poverty with the rich not contributing their fair share. The disparities of inequality could become permanent and cause social unrest, give rise to increased crime rates from capital offences such as murder for money, armed and deadly robbery, rape to petty offences such as burglary. Individual quality of life will plunge and give rise to social issues such as depression, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and other forms of abuse. The very order society has worked so tirelessly to instill will be eviscerated in a short span of time.
If countries continue to trot down the current path where the rich are allowed to subvert democracy in favour of their political and economic agenda, where billionaires have more and more and the poor has less, then mankind will be forced into a new age of slavery… Or anarchy.